Fantasy doll maker Mari Shimizu hails from Amakusa, Kumamoto Japan where after graduating from Tama Art University, she dedicated herself to creating and photographing her intricate ball-joint dolls. Shimizu is deeply inspired by the Surrealist movement, especially Nazi-hating Dadaist, photographer Hans Bellmer whose scandalous work often incorporated dolls. Here are a few words from Bellmer on his artistic approach that appear to directly align to Shimizu’s ethos:
The body resembles a sentence that seems to invite us to dismantle it into its component letters, so that its true meaning may be revealed ever anew through an endless stream of anagrams.
Shimizu carves openings in her dead-eyed dolls in order to provide the viewer insight into the inner-workings of her inanimate creations. Themes that run through her work include mythology, religion, death and nature in which rabbits are common themes. Rabbits are symbolic for a myriad of reasons and perhaps as it pertains to Shimizu’s work is how the rabbit is regarded as an “Earth” symbol—as it is the earthly aspect of its existence that allows the animal to retain its composure in the midst of chaos. Rabbits are also categorized as being “tricksters” in various mythological tales and folklore from around the world including Japan. Shimizu’s utilization of the dolls as unconventional artistic vehicles is about as tricky as it gets.
I’ve included a large selection of images of Shimizu’s ethereal dolls below. Some are NSFW.
According to his bio at the Morpheus Gallery, Polish artist Dariusz Zawadzki sees himself following in the footsteps of another surrealist Polish painter, the great Zdzislaw Bekinski. Zawadzki started painting when he was just eleven and when he expressed interest in pursuing formal training in art school he was told that his eyesight wasn’t good enough for him to become skilled in his chosen medium. This opinion didn’t deter Zawadzki and the young aspiring surrealist instead taught himself how to paint, developing unique methods along the way that helped him work around any issues he had with his vision.
In an interview Zawaszki said once said that most of the images he paints come from his dreams and his desire to discover “unreal worlds.” Zawadzki is also fascinated with birds and the symbolism they represent and will often incorporate aspects of bird-like features such as beaks and the suggestion of feathers.
In addition to his incredible paintings, Zawadzki is also a skilled sculptor and uses metal materials to create three dimensional futuristic works of art. I’ve included a few of Zawadzki’s sculptures along with many of his grimly beautiful paintings below. Zawaszki’s work is also the subject of an upcoming book that presents his large catalog of artwork in chronological order, The Fantastic Art of Zawadski which is due out in 2017. Some of the images that follow are slightly NSFW.
In one single day we upload more images onto the Internet than the total number of pictures produced during the whole of 19th century.
In one day—more pictures than a century’s worth of imagery. That’s one heck of a lotta selfies.
Our need for visual stimulus is relentless. We no longer view or experience imagery as previous generations did. The reverence with which some paintings or even photographs were once held is no longer relevant—we view indiscriminately, we consume continuously.
The French artist Coco Fronsac buys old discarded photographs from flea markets and turns them into Surreal works of art. Coco comes from a family of artists. Her grandparents Lucien Neuquelman and Camille Lesné were respected painters. Her parents met at art school. Coco attended art college in Paris before beginning her career as a painter, sculptor and creator of Surreal artworks from found photographs.
Coco takes each photograph—draws on it, paints over it and gives it a new life. If we cannot reclaim our past then we cannot understand our present. These photographs of people long dead, long forgotten have been abandoned, orphaned, thrown to the wind, sent for landfill. We no longer have any interest in them, their subject matter or the lives they lived. By turning these images into art, Coco reconnects the viewer’s relationship with the photo’s subjects. These reinvented images encourage the viewer to take a second look—to enquire about the subject matter and its history. Her intention is to bring people of different backgrounds together and rediscover the connections between us are far greater than the differences.
Atelier Manassé was a highly successful photographic studio established by husband and wife team Adorján von Wlássics (1893 - 1946) and Olga Solarics (1896 - 1969) in Austria in 1924—though some sources cite 1922.
Principally based in Vienna—with a smaller office in Berlin—the studio flourished during the 1920s and 1930s. It was known for producing highly flattering portrait photography of film, theater and cabaret stars. It could be said Adorján and Olga were the airbrush pioneers of their day—artfully painting out any blemishes or wrinkles and reducing the unsightly flab from legs and waists. The resulting photographs were mass produced and sold to fans as much sought after postcards.
But Atelier Manassé did not just specialise in lucrative publicity photographs—it also produced a vast array of erotica. In particular Olga dedicated herself to producing highly original nude photography which is credited with establishing the “pin-up” long before Playboy magazine. But Olga’s work was far superior and far more influential than any cheesecake photography—it drew on many avant garde ideas and cherry-picked styles from Surrealism and Expressionism. More importantly, Olga’s photography presented liberated images of women—relishing their own sexuality, their own bodies and their power of seduction.
There is a dedicated collectors market for Atelier Manassé photographs and even magazines all being sold at auctions and online for a goodly sum.
The following are some of the more Surreal and seductive photographs that typify the best of Atelier Manassé‘s erotica.
More beautiful photographs from Atelier Manassé, after the jump…
Someone’s dead relatives just got a makeover. Artist Alex Gross takes discarded vintage photographs, paints on them and turns them into portraits of pop culture icons like Batman, Superman, Electra, Wonder Woman, Super Mario and Marge Simpson. These mixed media paintings raise questions about the relevance of history, family and memory in our neo-liberal consumerist world—where fictional characters have far more currency and longevity than familial ties or dead relatives.
The world that I live in is both spiritually profound and culturally vapid. It is extremely violent but can also be extremely beautiful. Globalization and technology are responsible for wonderfully positive changes in the world as well as terrible tragedy and homogeneity. This dichotomy fascinates me, and naturally influences much of my work.
I like Alex Gross’s paintings. I like his ideas. He is painting a narrative to our lives—and like all good art he is questioning our role within this story and the values we consider important in its telling. More of Alex Gross’ work can be seen here.
It’s difficult to describe the music, or the persona, of Reverend Fred Lane, but I will try. The above pictured album cover probably paints at least a thousand words…
Fred Lane is an ultra obscure musical weirdo cult hero along the lines of Half Japanese, Daniel Johnston, Jandek, R. Stevie Moore or Wild Man Fischer, but he’s way, way more obscure than any of these comparatively famous freaks. At least you know the general territory. Lane was/is the stage name of a Tuscaloosa, AL-based artist/sculptor named T.R. Reed who put out two albums under the Fred Lane moniker in 1983, From the One That Cut You (recorded in 1975) and Car Radio Jerome in 1986. These albums were then re-released by Kramer’s Shimmy Disc label in the late 80s.
First the music: cartoony big-band free-jazz swing skronk sometimes bordering on total cacophony with dada lyrics and elements of easy listening, 70s Zappa, spy-fi, The Residents, Spike Jones, country and No Wave thrown in for good measure. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and that’s not a throwaway assessment. The music of Reverend Fred Lane exists in its own very, very specific angel dust funhouse mirror continuum in the same way that a film like Eraserhead or Forbidden Zone stands out when compared to other mere movies.
In the mid-70s there was an Alfred Jarry-influenced absurdest arts group/event in Tuscaloosa called the Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue and this is where Reed’s “Reverend Fred Lane” alter ego was born, as the joking MC for Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs. No pants. A tuxedo jacket. Coke-bottle glasses, a leering grin and a waxed mustache made the sleazy Reverend’s mad look which was then topped off with Band-Aids. Although it is an act, it’s not one that’s completely obvious at first and Lane might seem to some listeners to be genuinely demented.
From the One That Cut You was literally inspired by an illiterate threatening love note/confession from someone named “Fuear” that was wrapped around a knife that was found in a secret compartment in a 1952 Dodge truck. Reed wrote both a song and also a stage show based on the note for his Fred Lane character.
The note read:
“I hope the paine is gone. This is the one that cut you? P.S. Don’t wear about Jimmy I will take kear of him the same way I took kear of YOU.”
Dig his song titles: “Upper Lip Of A Nostril Man.” “Car Radio Jerome.” “The French Toast Man.” “Danger Is My Beer.” Who could forget “I Talk To My Haircut”? I can’t imagine what this music sounded like to unsuspecting listeners in the 70s and 80s. And how in the world did people find out about it? (Apparently John Peel played Fred Lane on his BBC radio show. I heard of him because Kramer gave me his CD.)
Interesting point. The Fred Lane CDs are long out of print and sell for upwards of $75 for used copies on Amazon. Fred Lane seems like an obvious candidate for a deluxe collector’s edition CD reissue of some sort. In the meantime, there’s a download link on the Remote Outposts blog
In 1940 and 1941 André Breton, widely considered the founder of Surrealism, and a group of like-minded individuals (René Char, Oscar Dominguez, Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, Jacques Hérold, Wilfredo Lam, André Masson, Benjamin Péret) decided to design their own deck of tarot cards. The deck they finally came up with was executed in a remarkably pleasing, almost ligne claire style. In accordance with the mindfuckery inherent to Surrealism, the group rejected the courtly/medieval theme of the traditional deck and nominated their own heroes to represent the face cards, including Hegel, Freud, the Marquis de Sade, Baudelaire, and so on.
(A quick clarification: It seems evident that this is a deck of playing cards or possibly a hybrid of tarot and playing cards. Sources seem unequivocal in describing the deck as a tarot deck, and so that’s what we’re going with too.)
The Surrealist deck of cards suggests a kind of post-Enlightenment, left-wing, revolutionary, intellect-based cosmology. So the royal hierarchy of King, Queen, and Jack was replaced with “Genius,” “Siren,” and “Magus,” this last word accentuating the occult roots of the project. Rejecting the traditional clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds as well as the traditional tarot suits (wands, cups, swords, and discs), the group invented its own symbolism, with flames and wheels constituting the red suits and locks and stars being the black ones. Flames represented love and desire; wheels represented revolution; stars represented dreams; and locks represented knowledge.
Brilliantly, for the joker, the group selected Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (bottom).
Described by Milos Forman as “Disney + Bunuel,” stop-motion animator Jan Švankmajer is one of the few artists to truly translate the spirit of early-20th century surrealism for the present. Folks like Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam cite Švankmajer’s late-‘80s and early-‘90s feature films like Alice and Faust as classics in the art form.
But most of all, Burton and Gilliam point to Švankmajer’s early short films from the ‘60s through the early ‘80s. One of these, the 10-minute Kostnice from 1970—known as Ossuary—isn’t stop-motion at all. Instead, it’s a beautifully stylized study of the decoratively laid-out bones of 70,000 people in the Cemetery Church in suburban Sedlec in the Czech Republic.
Shot during the dire couple of years after the Prague Spring liberation of 1968 collapsed under an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, Svankmajer made Ossuary a grim reminder of human fallibility.
As Jan Uhde wrote in his piece on the film for KinoEye:
Film-makers, particularly those of the “Czech New Wave,” were among the most severely persecuted. The fact that a non-conformist like Švankmajer was allowed to shoot in this atmosphere at all was in part due to the fact that he was working in the relatively obscure and inexpensive domain of short film production; this may have saved him from the crackdown that struck his more exposed colleagues in the feature film studios during the 1970s.
Moreover, Švankmajer’s remarkable tenacity and creative thinking enabled him to sometimes outwit the regime’s ideological watchdogs[…] The film was commissioned as a “cultural documentary,” a form popular with the authorities and considered relatively safe politically. But the subject Švankmajer chose must have been a surprise for the apparatchiks: on the one hand, the Sedlec Ossuary was a first-rate historical site which, at first glance, suited the official didactic demand. On the other hand, there was the uncomfortable subject of decay and death as well as religion, reflecting a subtle yet defiant opposition to the loud secular optimism of the communist officialdom.
Dangerous Minds couldn’t think of a better 111th birthday salute to the Hitch than to review his far-too-short dream-sequence collaboration in Spellbound with the clown-prince of surrealism, Salvador Dali.
By 1937, surrealism was in its second decade as a movement. Its artists and filmmakers were making inroads into London and New York galleries, and becoming media stars. The surrealist bug also bit on the West Coast, and underground gatherings like the Hollywood Film and Foto League screened European avant-garde films regularly.
Such gatherings attracted politically minded actor Harry Hay and Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographers Roger Barlow and LeRoy Robbins. After seeing a magazine ad for a short film contest, these jokers sprung into action, making Even—As You and I, a short depicting themselves as broke filmmakers who cobble together clichés from their fave avant-garde films into a dorky film-within-a-film spoof called The Afternoon of a Rubber Band. In a “D’oh!”-style ending, the three realize they’ve missed the contest’s midnight deadline.
A damn clever little underground film moment. Hay—the curly-haired guy in the group—would go on to become the godfather of gay activism, founding the Mattachine Society in the early’50s and the Radical Faeries in the early ‘70s.